Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

10th February
2011
written by Steph

The lovely Ms. Harkness

A Discovery of Witches has spent the past few days in the Top 10 Bestsellers on Amazon (and demand is so high that orders are taking a few extra days to process as copies of the book are located) so it hardly needs my help in the publicity department. That said, I know many of you expressed interest in the book when I linked to my review earlier this month, so I have an added treat for those of you who are still on the fence (or who have already devoured the book and are going through withdrawal): I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Deborah Harkness for BookPage and my Q&A with her is now available online and can be read here. Talking to Deborah was such a pleasure — we wound up talking for 75 minutes, and the time just flew; Deborah was so warm and her answers were so thoughtful. I got lots of details on how the series evolved (as well as some hints about its future directions), Deborah's approach to reading and writing, and plenty of other juicy details so have at it and let me know what you think!
2nd February
2011
written by Steph
Tony and I both have new reviews up at BookPage that y'all simply must take a gander at!

Regular readers at S&TI! know that my relationship with witches in books is generally circumscribed to the Harry Potter series, so you may be surprised to hear that I recently fell in love with an epic novel that features witches, daemons, and yes, those pesky vampires! For the February issue of BookPage, I selected Deborah Harkness' debut fiction novel, A Discovery of Witches, and I am SO glad I did. Featuring a feisty and intelligent heroine (who just happens to be an academic scholar!), this novel combines fantastical elements with everything I love in my books: academia, libraries, books, science, and a wonderful love story to boot. You know that I tend to shy away from books that are longer than 400 pages, but this book came in at almost 700 pages, and I read it in something like three days and was so despondent when it was over. It is so incredibly rich and absorbing, that even if the fantastical isn't normally your thing, you owe it to yourself to read this book. I actually had the chance to talk to Deborah Harkness about the book (and bonus: she is an absolute delight!) and she mentioned that she loves big chunky books, and one of her favorite novels is Possession by A.S. Byatt, which I think is actually quite evident in this novel. All to say that if you're wary, don't be! Harkness presents the supernatural in a way you've never before experienced it, and it is legitimately thrilling. I loved this book so much! To read more about the premise and why this book is so kick-ass, read my full review here. (P.S. I gushed about this book so effusively that it wound up being BookPage's pick of the month!)

Tony wrote a web exclusive on another debut novel that's getting an awful lot of buzz, that being The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. Bruno is a chimpanzee who examines exactly what it means to be human. I know some people are not keen on animal narrators (I admit, I initially thought the idea was a bit gimicky), but by all accounts this is a really unique and powerful book that raises a lot of interesting questions in a surprisingly serious way. I haven't yet read Bruno, but I kept our ARC of it because I know I will want to experience this brave and challenging novel for myself. To read the thoughts of someone who actually did read the book, you can read Tony's review here! All in all, two phenominal books that are worth splurging on, if I do say so myself! Do either of these titles appeal to you? Any new releases coming out this month that you're particularly looking forward to?
18th November
2010
written by Steph

Is Salman Rushdie one of those authors on your bucket list? You know the ones, authors you've always meant to read, but the sight of their name in print causes your timbers to shiver and your blood to run cold. You see the word "Rushdie" and immediately other words race to mind: "Satanic Verses", "fatwa" and even more chilling "Booker Prize winner". If any of these statements apply to you, then we have good news for you: Luka and the Fire of Life is now in stores and waiting for you to read it! This is Rushdie as written for kids (or young adults), but accessible and enjoyable for adults too! Not ready to test the waters on your own? No worries! Tony read and reviewed Luka for the December issue of BookPage, but you can read his thoughts on the book online right now, right here! This book would probably be a great introduction to all you Rushdie scaredy-cats out there, but it's also satisfying storytelling for those who've already braved the man and lived to tell the tale. I personally have been wanting to add a little more Rushdie to my life, so I'll likely be picking this one up soon myself. Head on over to BookPage and check out Tony's review for all the details and be sure to let us know what you think!
1st September
2010
written by Steph

There’s nothing I love more than a pun (see above), except maybe books that have puns in them. If you feel similarly, you may want to check out Kraken by China Miéville, which Tony reviewed for the BookPage website recently. According to his review (which you can read in its entirety here), this latest novel by Miéville is filled with wordplay galore, as well as a giant squid. Fantasy isn’t normally my bag, but I admit that Tony’s review has me intrigued, and I’m sure it won’t be long before I dip into the ARC we still have lying around our apartment. I’ve been wanting to read Miéville for a while, and if puns are my first love, giant beasts from the depths of the ocean run a close second. I also wrote a web exclusive for BookPage this month, reviewing Nigel Farndale’s The Blasphemer. You may have read about this book if you follow any British book blogs, but I’m happy to announce The Blasphemer is finally making its way to a U.S. audience. I loved the varied storylines and wrought interpersonal conflicts in this book that spans several lifetimes. Loved the lyricism of the writing, and the ambitiousness of the novel’s scope. No giant squid in this one, but I still hope this book finds an audience. For more of my thoughts on this one, read my full review here.
3rd May
2010
written by Steph

There’s always a lot of talk in the book blogosphere about genre fiction, often in the vein of “why does genre fiction have such a bad rap?” as well as people arguing that putting up barriers in fiction and labeling what we read is both artificial and limiting.  Notably, Margaret Atwood is one author who has claimed at one time or another that she doesn’t write “science fiction” (as though such a suggestion is distasteful), but that her writing is “speculative fiction”.  Terry Pratchett has cheekily stated that “magical realism is like a polite way of saying you write fantasy”, while Gene Wolf has opined that "magic realism is fantasy written by people who speak Spanish.” Whether it’s romances, western, military fiction, mysteries, or yes, fantasy and sci-fi, there is this pervasive view that genre fic, is somehow not proper writing (and as a corollary, I suppose, that those who read it are not doing proper reading).  Nymeth has spoken out about her dislike for the term guilty pleasure, because of the indirect implication that the work in question is of lesser value. Of course, at the end of the day, why do we need to label what we read? If a book is well-written, imaginative, emotionally honest, and provocative, then I want to read it, regardless of where I have to go in the bookstore to find it.  Often times, my favorite books are the ones that are difficult to define and pin down, those so-called “genre-benders”. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (henceforth known as HBW), is one such book. (more…)
7th March
2010
written by Steph
Another hiatus - though this time a rather prolonged one.  Apologies, of course.  We make excuses at the start of the podcast, but really the gap between this and the last podcast is simply due to us being hella busy during February with social obligations and also illnesses (seriously, Steph is better now, but she still has a bit of a cough... which makes a few cameos in the podcast) and pretty much we watched very few movies.  I mean, over the course of a month, we only have six films to talk about, which should tell you something! But in the end, we did watch the following six films: Highlights from this long overdue podcast:
  • Find out who Ray D. Tutto is when we discuss The Adventures of Baron Munchausen!
  • We debate the titular appropriateness of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove
  • NY I Love You may be all about love, but we think maybe we're better off just as friends... and Steph may or may not make a culturally insensitive joke in this segment (but she promises it was a joke!)
  • When in Rome don't see this movie.  Really, that's a good rule of thumb whichever country you happen to find yourself in.
  • Into the Wild teaches us the important life lesson of not heading into the wilds of Alaska with a 5-lb bag of rice, a 22 shotgun, and a shaky knowledge of edible plants.  There go our one-year wedding anniversary plans...
  • Is The Hurt Locker a worthy Oscar nominee?  Consensus: ????... ????
We won't lie: this is one of our longer podcast, but I guess we were making up for lost time!  And hopefully we're back in the movie-watching groove.  We've already watched two new flicks since recording this, so all signs point to "outlook good".

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17th September
2009
written by Steph
Don't be surprised if Grossman gets his butt sued by Rowling, Tolkien, or Lewis (yes, the dead might rise from the grave to do so!)!

Don't be surprised if Grossman gets his butt sued by Rowling, Tolkien, or Lewis (yes, the dead might rise from the grave to do so!)!

Steph's Take (That's right, you get a double-header, folks!  Also, sorry this is a long one; I had a lot of feelings...): When it comes to publicizing books, you need only say one of two names in order for me to be guaranteed to want to read your book.  The first is Jane Austen.  This is how I came to buy such books as No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym (who has been called the Jane Austen of her day), Beginner’s Greek by James Collins (the book evoked a sense of Jane Austen), The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler (self-explanatory… I hope), and Jane and the Upleasantness at Scargrave Manor: Being the First Jane Austen Mystery (also self-explanatory, but perhaps less easy to justify).  The other name?  Harry Potter.  That is how I came to purchase Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (which if it were not for Tony, would still be classified as “unread”), and more recently, to borrow The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I read the first two chapters of the book, before showing it to Tony.  He said that it seemed like a book he would probably enjoy reading, so he read the first two chapters, and then we decided to read it aloud to one another so that we could experience it together.  It was a fun experience to share Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book together on the way back from our honeymoon, so we thought it might be fun to do it again. (more…)
4th August
2009
written by Steph
My August read for BookPage

My August read for BookPage

Since it's a new month, it also means I have a new review up in the current issue of BookPage.  For the August issue I read Victor LaValle's second novel, Big Machine.  What can I say?  I loved this book, and I hope you will too.  If you enjoy mysteries, fantasy, sci-fi, or just a rolicking adventure story with a pretty biting sense of humor, there's a good chance you will!  When this one hits the shelves, I'll probably buy a hard-cover copy because I liked it that much.  In my own personal reading loI gave this book a 4.5 out of 5 rating, which says a lot.  Also, I made Tony read it after I finished it and now both of us are interested in reading LaValle's back catalog.  He's likely an author you haven't heard of before, but now all of that's changed so you have no excuse not to give Big Machine a shot! I'm pretty proud of this review, and was extra excited to see that it got "Feature" billing (and also kicks off the Fiction reviews in the print edition of the magazine).  Please check it out and let me know what you think!
3rd August
2009
written by Steph
In 2.5 hours, does the past unravel or just get more tangled?

In 2.5 hours, does the past unravel or just get more tangled?

I’ll kick off a review by sharing a honeymoon story with you:  Tony & I were really excited to find out that the new Harry Potter movie would be premiering while we were in Charleston.  Another thing to celebrate!  I jumped online and bought us some tickets to the midnight showing at the theater closest to our hotel and then just counted down the days.  When the night finally arrived, we drove up to the theater and we were a bit confused to see that there were several police cars stationed about.  Are Charlestonians violently passionate about Harry Potter?  And what was with all the lawn-chairs that the people in line were toting about?  Surely they couldn’t have been waiting in line that long to necessitate seating!  We swiftly discovered that the movie theater had decided it would capitalize on the rabid fandom by airing the midnight showing out in the parking lot, thereby allowing them to sell an unlimited number of tickets.  Needless to say, Tony & I were not amused; I didn’t pay for full-price tickets to sit in a dirty, humid parking lot (we hadn’t known to bring chairs…) to watch the film with crummy outdoor speakers on a building wall.  So, it was with heavy hearts that we decided to bail out on the midnight showing and just catch another show the next day.  In the end, I’m glad we made the choice we did since the theater itself was really cool – it actually had a full service bar, and in the individual movie viewing rooms themselves you actually had a table in front of you and could order full meals (that someone delivered to you!).  It was definitely a new experience for us, and one I’m glad we got to have. So, onto the movie itself!  I don’t really know where to begin or how to break this all down.  I guess I’ll start by saying that this will obviously involve plot spoilers and discussion of the books and movies to-date, so if you don’t want to read that kind of stuff, you should probably not keep reading.  Also, I have A LOT of thoughts on the movie... (more…)
26th July
2009
written by Steph

As many of you know, I stressed out over which books to take on our honeymoon vacation (I know I’m not alone in this panic that sets in when there’s an impending trip and limited space for books).  In retrospect, I need not have worried so much, as Tony & I hardly got any reading done while we were away.  I did, however, manage to squeeze in Neil Gaiman’s latest book, The Graveyard Book on the way back home in the car.  Being short of audiobooks, and not being one to get carsick, I actually read the entire thing aloud to keep Tony entertained as he drove us back from Savannah to Nashville (about an 8-hour trip).  This turned out to be a great selection for reading in the car as it was not too complicated but sufficiently action-packed to keep our attention and to keep me reading the entire time. The basic premise of the book is that when he was a baby, a stranger killed the rest of Nobody (Bod) Owens’s family.  Bod makes it to the local graveyard where the undead inhabitants agree to care for him until he is old enough to do so for himself.  In the graveyard Bod will have protection from his would-be killer, and also has restricted powers that are often limited to the graveyard’s ghostly inhabitants.  So Bod grows up in the graveyard, with two ghosts for parents, and the bulk of the novel focuses on his misadventures as he transitions from baby to boy to young man.  As the novel progresses, Bod becomes obsessed with life beyond the graveyard.  Specifically Bod wants to find the man who wanted to kill him all those years ago, before that man finds him.  Bod knows he’s still out there waiting, and only hopes that with the power of the graveyard on his side, Bod just might prevail. (more…)
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